Eid and Eating Disorders
Wishing Everyone out there a Blessed Eid.
Eid-ul-Fitr is celebrated to mark the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. It is a day of joy, bonding, helping one another and spreading happiness all over the globe. For those suffering from Eating Disorders or are in recovery from their disorder, Eid period probably represents the most difficult time of the year. It is not uncommon that the pressure of Eid can instigate a worsening of behaviors for many with eating disorders. The day can be overwhelming with friends, family, food, and guests and more guests. Food is a big part of Eid, and for those who suffer from eating disorders, the guilt trips, feelings of panic, fear anxiety are sure to follow.
People with eating disorders often use food to deal with uncomfortable or painful emotions:
Restricting food is used to feel in control.
Overeating temporarily soothes sadness, anger, or loneliness.
Purging is used to combat feelings of helplessness and self-loathing.
It’s these negative thoughts and feelings that fuel the damaging behaviors. But being aware of your feelings in advance can help you prepare ways of coping.
Eid doesn’t have to be associated with deterring feelings or anxiety about food, but rather a day to commemorate love, family and friends.
Eid is about Joy, Love and Happiness! The love for your family, friends, and everyone. Let your happiness and love rule the Eid Day.
If you slip up, then don’t panic. Remember the Japanese Proverb: Fall down seven times, stand up eight. Just because you have slipped- doesn’t mean you have failed.
“They say it takes, on average, seven tries to quit smoking. If someone fails on their sixth attempt, it doesn’t mean they’re a failure; it just means they haven’t hit that seventh attempt yet. Recovery from eating disorders is like that. Missing the mark once doesn’t make you a failure; slipping repeatedly doesn’t mean you’re hopeless. It just means you haven’t tried enough times yet.”- Dr. Caryn Bello
The key to surviving Eid involves a pact from you to Relax and be Happy
Some Tips to Help you cope with Eid Day
Plan your Day in Advance. Make a list and have a backup plan. In my family we have multiple family gatherings with multiple food buffets. We have a traditional breakfast with sweet vermicelli at 8-9 am. Then it’s followed by noon lunch at my older aunt’s house. About 3pm we have another lunch/snack at my second aunt’s house. Everyone gets together and out of respect and courtesy we all eat again. Then we have evening dinner at my Dad’s sister’s house. Not to forget the number of guests that turn up between last lunch and dinner time and all those snacks one has to consume in between. What really helps me is planning my meals ahead and knowing my portion sizes. It’s bit like intuitive eating. You eat with your eyes and not your stomach. Just paying attention and being mindful.
Stay busy. If you constantly have something to do, it will keep your mind off food.
Try not to isolate yourself. I don’t think it’s possible to do that, taking into account sheer size of our families. It’s your day as well. Your ED has had its fair share of time (all those hours spent in isolation with ED), now it’s time for you to take charge and claim some of your happiness back.
Let at least one person in your family know how you are feeling about your fears around food. The more aware they are of your needs, the more confident and willing they will be to help you. Or if you can identify a friend that you can confide in, enlist their support and work out with them specific ways of coping with the pressures of the day.
Stop Worrying- Being in a state of worry weakens us – energetically, emotionally, spiritually. Try to ease the stress by identifying what might make things less stressful for you. Write out a list and share it with your family. This could help you to negotiate ways of having your needs met.
Present your list as your coping tools so that others may engage positively to support you in using them.
Don’t let yourself get pressured or guilted into eating more than you want to. Even if your so-called Aunt has spent the past 8 hours slaving over a kitchen stove to make your favourite food, you don’t have to eat anything that you don’t want.
If there are kids around, play with them! Kids can be fun and exhilarating.
Write down your feelings if you feel scared. Writing it down can help to dilute or dissipate the feeling.
Arrange that whoever is doing the cooking knows that you need to have some control over what you eat. Try to negotiate ways of having your needs met well in advance of Eid Day, in order to prevent a build up of anxiety and stress.
Try and take time-out from the ‘crowd’, maybe by reading quietly, taking a walk or simply meditating. Tell people in advance that it would help you to be allowed to do this. It’s important to take time out from all this to acknowledge the day and your wish to enjoy it.
Be prepared for comments about food and plan your responses. Avoid reacting defensively. Instead, respond in a way that invites others to respect your needs.(Example: “It’s important for me to be able to manage things at my own pace at the moment. If I am allowed to manage things my own way, it will help me to feel less stressed”. )
If you eat a little more, or a little less, a little sooner or a little later than usual that is okay. It is Eid Day. It does not mean you will relapse.
Try to not expect too much either of yourself or of others, or even of the day. This will help you to avoid feeling disappointed.
Remember- It is important to remember that you deserve to be happy too, so choose what you want to do as much as you can.
Gift- Give yourself the gift of acceptance – you are as you are.
If you really cannot face the full day of Eid, explore ways of helping others, or escape within the home if that is possible.
Try and stay with the present and not look back or forward.
Finally, if you are feeling overwhelmed, do not be hard on yourself – Eid can be overwhelming at the best of times.
Remember, there is more to Eid than food. After observing this great month, a Muslim is virtually reborn into a state of cleanliness and purity. After Ramadan, Allah gives us another chance at life. Whenever a person faces hardship, it’s easy for him/her to give up and walk away from their challenges. They fall into depression, feel sad about their situation and feel powerless. Do not give into such feelings. During these times of hardship especially with your Eating Disorder, it’s essential to remember there are effective ways to deal with any difficulty. Set new goals, the ones that will defeat the demon of Eating Disorder, remember Allah is with you.